W is for Wild

Solar Wind copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Solar Wind
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

There has always been a place in my heart for this word, Wild. I don’t really understand its full meaning or resonance, but it definitely evokes something in me that is primal and vital.

Its not about acting wild. It doesn’t have to do with physicality either.  It’s more of an honoring of the Source of my existence and living out from that with freedom.

If instead we choose to follow a broad path of acquiescence to societal norms and expectations, we may find that our spirit gets tamped down, caged and eventually withers us from the inside out.

We have all seen these withered people. Some are angry all the time (and rightly so). Others are despondent and depressed. And still others drink or drug their anxiety into numbness and oblivion (even prescribed medication can be a form of numbing because we refuse to acknowledge the real source of our ailment.) And we may recognize the withered one in ourselves.

I remember when the Dallas Zoo had all their big cats in small cages (some still are, I think.)  Their life span at that time was 3 years!  Ours might last a little longer because we let our anxiety seep out or drug it.  But its worth noting that we can’t keep our true wildness caged for too long, or we will wither and die as well.

As for how to go about truly honoring what is inside, I can only suggest that we each find stillness and listen to the voice within.  That voice is God, the Wild Original, and is calling to us always.  The path to our expression of it is our own and will be like no one else’s, although we will find encouragement and camaraderie by others who have the courage to venture toward their wildness as well.

Today is a good day to begin or renew the journey.

V is for Veil

My life has suddenly converged on this week with so much coming due at once.  Several projects with contacts spread across the country, I have been emailing and writing and planning and coordinating. I also have a family and field trips and grocery shopping and care taking.

And today, one of the many tasks I must undertake is to find a “veil” for my son who plays Airsoft. This is a military simulation sport where participants fire plastic bb’s at one another.  His request for a “veil” is a cloth of some sort (frayed, fringed or otherwise NOT flat) that he can camouflage to keep himself hidden at an overnight event.  I plan to raid the local Goodwill store.

But of course, here again is an opportunity to look beneath the obvious to find the hidden inspiration.

In the book of Matthew (and Mark and Luke, too), the Bible talks about the veil of the temple being rent (torn) in two when Jesus died on the cross.  Here is what GotQuestions.org says about the veil, “in the temple a veil separated the Holy of Holies—the earthly dwelling place of God’s presence—from the rest of the temple where men dwelt.”

I hadn’t really thought about the idea that a veil was a separation between God and man.  In Biblical times, Jewish priests were the only ones allowed beyond the veil into the Holy of Holies and that only once yearly. So it seems that there wasn’t really a concept of God talking with an ordinary person (and never a woman or child!)

But clearly God did speak with men, women, and children! Even in the Bible. He/She isn’t confined to a room in a temple, and maybe this is what the Gospels are alluding to.

And while I can see that this notion is much more accepted today, I think there is a much greater sense of the presence of God that we can embrace. Its not just that God is over there caring for us over here.  That still indicates a veil!

My concept of God is so much closer than that–to suggest that we are separate from God at all (even suggesting we are infinitely close) misses the mark. I like to think of God as All Life living itself as us.  We are the verbs of Life. God runs, and we are the running, just as the wind isn’t separate from the blowing! Then the veil truly is rent!

Try that on and let me know what you think.


U is for Unknown

Garden Nebula copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Garden Nebula
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I like the writings of Pema Chodron.  She taught me how to stop judging others, to just allow people to make mistakes and be human. And she taught me how to be with myself without judging too. This has been particularly helpful.

One of the concepts she teaches about is groundlessness–another word for the unknown.  Many spiritual teachers encourage their students to relax with what is unknown, to stop trying to outline or control the future, to stop pushing away what we are uncomfortable with, and to stay.  After years of practice, I can say that this has been one of the best lessons for me to learn–stillness.

When we are faced with things we can’t control, when faced with the unknown, we often grope for something familiar, something to hold onto to steady us.  And usually, we end up doing the same things over and over and over again. We react in predictable ways. We run away,  we numb ourselves with addictive substances (alcohol, drugs, sex, food, tv, Facebook), we shut down, or we act out (anger, temper tantrums, depression, tears, sarcasm).  No matter how you slice it, it ain’t pretty.

But learning to sit with the discomfort and just to stay, even to move in closer to learn what it is really about, is to learn to be still.  And when we are still, we can see things more clearly than ever before. What seemed so terrifyingly unknown is actually very simple. We may not know what the next moment will bring, but it doesn’t matter, because we aren’t afraid to sit with it. Whether it is light or dark, we know we won’t run. Because we have learned to be still, we aren’t afraid of our reactions.  Even if we choose to react, we soon see it in the reflection of stillness.

Then the unknown becomes a friend and an adventure. Everything is an opportunity to learn more about this amazing Life and our place in it.

T is for Tests

Energy River copyright Debra Myers Woodward
Energy River
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I have often lamented the battery of standardized tests that my kids have to take every Spring. It isn’t given just to score how well the school is teaching children in my state, it determines whether they can move up to the next grade level. I find it tantamount to treason (and 2 more T words!)

In life though, as we learn new concepts, we are often put to the test. The situation comes up once again, suspiciously similar to the last one that “taught us a lesson.”  And we have the opportunity to put our new-found knowledge to use. Or not.

If not, we can be assured that it will come up again…and again….and again.  Life is very thorough in that way. We will get to keep repeating this grade level until we pass the test. Then we are given more to handle.

I have thought about this in terms of career and relationships and other life responsibilities.  Like many people, I would love a successful career. But have I demonstrated that I can handle the one I have yet?  And I realize I have no idea how I would handle a lot of clients or customers or commissions. I don’t know how to do large-scale business deals. These things I am not even prepared to approach!

Its been a great thing to notice this so that I can watch for what lessons I am learning and what tests I am being given. And great incentive not to fall back on the old ways of doing things but to take what I learn and use it.

S is for Shopping

"Spring Rain" 24"x30" copyright Debra Myers Woodward
“Spring Rain”
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

Today is Earth Day, possibly my favorite day of the year. I am particularly fond of this little corner of the universe and all those who inhabit it.

This morning I received an email from a certain retail establishment that I frequent.  The subject said, “Celebrate Earth Day with Free Shipping.”  And the obvious ridiculousness of that prompted this post.

How about we celebrate Earth Day by NOT shopping at all? I recently took a quiz online (here) to see how many earth’s it would take to support the whole population if everyone in the world lived like me.  I live in North America, so I wasn’t surprised to see that it would require 4.7 earths.  This was not an encouraging number (and that means that Mars alone isn’t going to help much if we were thinking we could just colonize another planet.) In this article, I learned that Earth Overshoot Day was in August of 2015–the day that the 7.1 billion people on this planet passed the mark of consuming more resources than our planet can sustain!

So it seems essential that I take steps to improve my footprint on the environment. Pollution from the constant growth in manufacturing goods (not to mention the extraction of materials from the earth) is causing great harm on the environment, regardless of your position on global warming.  Whatever we can do to lessen our impact will help Her to breathe a little more easily and allow us to live on it for a longer time.

I believe this starts with our thoughts, as all things do! So before I reach for something sweet, for example, I ask myself, why do I want this? Am I trying to sweeten a feeling in me? Do I feel sad or upset or lonely?  The same is true about our “need” to purchase things we don’t actually need.  Its worthwhile to ask ourselves do we really need this? Or are we filling an emptiness inside?  Is the rush of walking through a beautiful store and choosing things distracting us from something we find unattractive?

Sitting with these questions for a bit (it won’t kill us and in fact, might help us!) instead of compulsively buying more stuff is the best thing we can do for our home, planet earth.  And perhaps, with all of that extra time and mind-space freed up, we might come up with new technologies that improve the environment while providing food, clean water and sanitary living conditions for everyone on the planet.

R is for Reading List

Refraction copyright Debra Myers Woodward Sold
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

Today I will just list a few of the books on my reading list…Share your list in the comments!

  • The Lemon Tree by Sandy Tolan
  • New and Selected Poems by Mary Oliver
  • I Am That by Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj
  • Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life by Karen Armstrong
  • Consolations by David Whyte
  • Plan B by Anne Lamott
  • Mornings Like This: Found Poems by Annie Dillard
  • Autobiography of a Yogi by Paramahansa Yogananda
  • Stillness Dancing by Adyashanti

Q is for Quiet

Atmosphere of Spirit copyright Debra Myers Woodward

Today was a quiet day. I really,  really like quiet. It gives me space and time to think and not think, and to just be.

But when I think about it, is it ever really completely quiet?  No. There is always sound. Always. And if I stop to listen, I will hear it.  The air conditioner running. The refrigerator. A bird calling. The wind. A far off truck rumbling down a highway.  Maybe even a lawnmower (although I rarely miss hearing those!!)

Really what I notice is the more still and quiet I am inside, the more I notice these other things that are present with me now. This is true for noticing the more subtle aspects of my personality as well. Things may go unnoticed–an irritation with someone, a nagging feeling that something isn’t quite right in a situation, a physical discomfort–until we get very quiet and still within.

I love a quote by William Butler Yeats,
“We can make our minds so like still water that beings gather about us that they may see, it may be, their own images, and so live for a moment with a clearer, perhaps even with a fiercer life because of our quiet.”

What more is there to say than that?

P is for Purpose

"The Deep within" copyright Debra Myers Woodward
“The Deep within”
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I know we hear a lot about purpose these days. We hear that we are supposed to have a purpose, that we need to find our purpose, that we need to live out from our purpose.

I was recently listening to Byron Katie on YouTube talk about purpose. She took it down to the basics.  Her purpose was to sit in that chair in that moment, to breathe, to move her hand in just that way.  This could seem simplistic, but what I came away with is that our purpose is to be in the moment!

Can I live out from this moment and “move at the impulse of Thy Love,” as an old church hymn goes.  Can I take this day as it comes? Can I listen and do what comes to me to do without argument? without resistance? without complaint?

“Do the dishes.” Move to the sink and begin washing the dishes. “Wash the dog.” Gather the towels, soap and take poor pup to the patio.  These are the instructions we hear in our thoughts, not what comes from another person.  They might also tell us to rest, or run, or work, or play.  Instead of justifying our taking a rest and complaining that we have to help someone, lets be with our purpose to live this moment however it comes to us to live it. Own it!


O is for Octopus

"Moon-age Dreaming" copyright Debra Myers Woodward
“Moon-age Dreaming”
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I recently had a dream about going on a train or subway with my son. We had an octopus that we had to put in a plastic box.  It filled the box as we put the lid on.

I have a book on Native American animal imagery and meanings they have for different animals.  Unfortunately, octopus wasn’t included, so I did what any modern-day inquisitor does, I googled it.

It isn’t so hard to discover what associations octopi are likely to yield: creativity, ingenuity, intelligence.  Have you watched videos of their amazing escapes? I read just the other day of an octopus named Inky escaping from the National Aquarium of New Zealand. Now that  requires ingenuity! Swim free Inky!

But this got me to thinking about my dream. Have I boxed in my creativity, my ingenuity and intelligence. I could answer yes, definitely so. I am just beginning to write again, thanks to this April A-to-Z challenge. But I go long stretches without painting. And not because I don’t have ideas!

So one of my intentions this week is to make room for painting.  Are there things you haven’t made time for that you know would be good for you?  Its never too late to create a space of even 10 minutes a day to cherish your well-being by doing what you love. Maybe this small opening will lead to the freedom of the ocean like it did for Inky.

N is for No-mistake

An Irish halo copyright Debra Myers Woodward
An Irish halo
copyright Debra Myers Woodward

I loved reading in “A Thousand Names for Joy” by Byron Katie that when people started arriving at her door saying, “namaste'”, she thought they were saying “no-mistake”.  She said she couldn’t believe how enlightened they all were. She had never heard “namaste” before, so she had no reference for it.

And since Namaste’ means “the divinity within me greets the divinity within you”, doesn’t that indicate that there is no mistake there? No mistake in me, and no mistake in you.  That’s who we truly are. Thats how we were made, “in the image and likeness of God,” as stated in the first chapter of Genesis.

But what about those who do bad or even horrible things? What about when we say and do things we aren’t proud of, things we consider mistakes?  There is no person on the planet who has led what we humans would call a perfect life. Its impossible.  So learning to love one another and stay centered and grounded despite these difficulties is part of our life-long earthly classroom. It softens us, shows us what grace looks like, heals and blesses…eventually. And for each and every one of us, it teaches us patience.

We are all born of and carried with this divinity for all time. So next time you meet someone, look deep within both yourself and them and see our divinity and speak to that.



Note: The photo was a “mistake” taken as I held my phone while waiting in line for the “photo booth” at a wedding I attended. But I LOVE it! No mistake!